I had the opportunity to present an “Animal Law Update” on October 21, 2016 at the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research’s 23rd Annual IACUC Conference – the region’s premier training conference for professionals in laboratory animal research field. Among this year’s 110 participants were key institution decision makers, Animal Care and Use Committee members, lab animal veterinarians, animal welfare compliance specialists and other lab animal research team members from the pharmaceutical industry, contract research organizations, academic research institutions, and government officials from USDA and NIH.
During my presentation I discussed the legal issues affecting animal-related industries, including the biomedical research community and analyzed activist activities that can help the research community predict, prepare for, and defend against such challenges. I was also re-elected to the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research during the annual meeting, held at the beginning of this conference.
Dr. William Stokes, Assistant Director, Animal Welfare Operations, USDA, APHIS, Animal Care provided an informative USDA Regulatory Update and Insights. Dr. Stokes shared USDA Animal Care’s “5-year Strategic Plan” including the mission and vision of the agency, also available on its website:
New to the agency is the introduction of the term “critical noncompliant items” (“NCI’s) which includes all “direct noncompliant items” and certain “indirect noncompliant items.” Dr. Stokes explained that this term was not really new, and had been used in practical effect, by the agency for a long time.
Dr. Stokes also provided important data from USDA’s inspections authorized by the Animal Welfare Act including:
- There were over 10,000 unannounced inspections in FY16 of research facilities, breeders, dealers, exhibitors, transporters and intermediate handlers;
- There were about 1350 inspections of the 1050 registered research facilities;
- 76% of these inspections had no NCI’s;
- Of the 561 NCI’s in research facilities, 38% of those were related to activities and conduct of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, and specifically related to the semi-annual reports that are required by the AWA.
Dr. Stokes informed the attendees about the updated public search engine that serves as the database for USDA licensees and related inspection reports, known as the Animal Care Information System (ACIS3). USDA sent a bulletin on 09/22/2016 to stakeholders titled “New Terms Will Appear on USDA Inspection Reports.” As Dr. Stokes explained, there are two new terms that will appear on reports and in search results:
- Focused inspections
- Critical noncompliant items.
Dr. Stokes ended his presentation reminding all attendees that the goal of USDA and its licensees is to “optimize welfare.”